16th Animation Division Critiques

Seeking Further Advances in Visual Expression

Submissions from around the world to the Animation Division have increased year by year, and this year the task of narrowing down the award candidates put us in a happy quandary. Because animation is a field in which advances in digital technology are easy to see and readily reflected in the quality of what appears onscreen, one gets the impression that high-quality works are proliferating with every year. This year the internationalization of the short-film category was conspicuous, but I thought that Japanese artists made powerful work as well. It is intriguing that the Grand Prize winner COMBUSTIBLE, an attempt to give animated form to a cultural phenomenon associated with traditional Japan, the great fires of the Edo period, was created by OTOMO Katsuhiro, an artist renowned globally for AKIRA. There are many as yet unexplored possibilities for "distinctively Japanese" animation of this sort.
Whereas TV animations were prominent at the 14th and 15th festivals (2010 and 2011), 2012 could be called the year of the animated feature film, as reflected in the soaring number of works made for theatrical release. Though most of these projects presumably began before 3.11, there was a noticeable trend toward works on themes related to life and its continuance.
Many films intrepidly pushed the envelope in their use of computer graphics, particularly for characters. In telling a harsh tale of life and death in extreme circumstances, ASURA, an Excellence Award winner, wielded an expressive power that signified a breakthrough and, hopefully, a watershed in the medium. Many works also assigned priority to handmade textures. There was a richness in the drawings of works like the Excellence Award-winning WOLF CHILDREN, which emphasized a gentleness of movement, while others like the New Face Award recipient LUPIN the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine boasted a clarity of line; overall, the range of diversity was impressive.
It seems to be the season for expanding the expressive palate by hybridizing a wide range of techniques. This holds true for every year of the festival, but this year in particular I hope visitors will savor the full array of works on view, including the Jury Selections. May the aura emanating from that overview inspire new creators and lead to further increases in the number of quality works submitted to this festival.

HIKAWA Ryusuke
Animation Critic
Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1958, HIKAWA graduated from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, School of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology. From when he was a student he was active as a magazine editor, music album creator, and writer in the field of animation special effects. After gaining experience as an engineer/manager at an IT company, he launched his own writing business, through which he provides commentary on various topics for magazines, videograms, and the Web. Other activities include directing the "Anime Maestro" segment of the television program BS Anime Yawa, commenting on products distributed on the Bandai Channel, and serving as a lecturer at Ikebukuro Community College. His publications include 20 Nenme no Zambot 3 (The 20th Year of Zambot 3; Ohta Publishing, 1997) and Akira Archive (Kodansha, 2002).